As you’ve probably heard, the two largest poker sites in the world (Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars) had their website shut down in the good ‘ol USA by the US Dept of Justice (DoJ) on April 15, 2011 (aka Black Friday). Both sites remained open to non-US players and PokerStars made good to their American customers and paid them out in full a few weeks later.
Here we are, nearly five months later and Full Tilt has not paid back their American customers. Rumor has it that they owe $150M to the Americans.
To add insult to injury, Full Tilt got shut down worldwide in late June, so many FT players across the world have funds locked up in their accounts. I have $1,150 in cash and another ~200k in Full Tilt Points worth about $850 in tournament tokens… bringing my total cash value to about $2,000. Being shutdown worldwide gives the company no income to speak of.
I don’t quite understand the legality of it all, but the DoJ shut down both sites in April due to “money laundering” and “bank fraud”. I think it sounds worse than it is… no criminal activities took place (in the sense of there being no traditional victim), but the poker sites did deceive the US banks by disguising money coming in and out of their site as “purchases of general merchandise”, such as golf clubs… at least, that’s my understanding.
But why is Full Tilt shut down worldwide? Apparently, they got into hot water with their licensing board (completely different issue than the DoJ shutdown)… long story, short… their finances are FUBAR and they are now looking for an investor to pick up the pieces.
It’s my understanding that their CEO, Ray Bitar, completely fucked up the company’s finances. They were bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars every day, but apparently they blew most of it and then some on marketing and god knows what!
Wow… I’m not sure where this will lead. But I hope a group of investors can get the site back up and running within the next 12-18 months. I suspect that even the execs at PokerStars might have an interest in striking a deal… I would not bet against that.
Then there’s the issue of US government regulation… just a hunch, but it could be at least another 2 years before we see US residents playing on PokerStars or FT again.